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My search for a MacBook Pro alternative (medium.com/broken-window)
167 points by gh1 on Dec 9, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 189 comments

I think part of the frustration with the new MBP is the realization that the alternatives are kinda shoddy. The "state of Linux on Mac" article that hit the front page recently was really a reminder about the attention to detail that makes Macs great. Whereas other manufacturers keep dedicated GPU framebuffers powered up even when using integrated graphics (because the display is connected to the GPU), Apple connects the display to a custom multiplexer so the dedicated GPU can be completely powered down. Thunderbolt controllers draw 2W at idle, so Apple implements a non-standard ACPI function to power the chip down when nothing is plugged in.

I've been looking to replace a 2013 15" rMBP and nothing else fits the bill. I can get a T560 with a low-power dual core CPU that weighs almost a pound more when you configure it with a battery as big as the one in the MBP. Or I can get an XPS 15 where you can either get a Retina display or 10 hours of battery life, but not both.

Surface Book comes close but it's only 13". And Microsoft had a ton of execution problems with power management and sleep. Apparently building a good laptop is really hard. Even Apple seems to have fucked up power management and GPU integration in the latest MBP.

> I think part of the frustration with the new MBP is the realization that the alternatives are kinda shoddy.

After the MBP unveiling I spent a good few hours researching alternatives, for the first time since I moved to Apple about 10 years ago. Despite the fact that I found a number of options multiple hundreds of euros cheaper than the new MBP for similar or better 'specs', I still ended up with some kind of MacBook as the best option.

For the first time I feel 'held hostage' by Apple, except that I can't really blame them for the lack of quality elsewhere. I can't help but feel a bit silly about being angry at Apple for selling their products at a price point that is acceptable to me (barely), even though that strikes me as exactly the thing a company should be doing...

Get a thinkpad X220, get the large battery for ~15hr continuous use or large battery + slice for much much longer then that.

Both with wifi and I'm usually running CLion or PyCharm while also browsing the web (Firefox/Chrome). All you need to do is install TLP.

Thinkpads are also the only reasonable computer I've found with a docking feature. My thinkpad is now also my main desktop.

I'm looking for a replacement for my 15". The extra space is glorious for people who actually use their laptops as laptops, instead of docked all the time. My T450s gets 12+ hours with the extended battery, but 14" just isn't enough (and the "IPS FHD" display is at best mediocre).

I'm in college and I sit in class ignoring my professors all day. The extra space is unneeded for most tasks. The only thing I wouldn't want to do is watch movies on it. It's perfectly fine to do so long as you've got a way to organize windows and such.

Some peopel just use workspaces. I just remember where I put things.

> Thunderbolt controllers draw 2W at idle

Shit, seriously? Do you have a cite for this? 'Cause that's wild.

Wow. Explains a little bit about battery life when Thunderbolt devices are active. Thanks.

That's approximately enough power to lift 2 apples up 1 meter in 1 second. Crazy.

Really? Interesting measure. Where did you get that?

High school teacher.

Technically, it's approximately enough to accelerate one 15" MBP at one meter/second, with a bit left over to compensate for friction.

Convert watts to horse power :)

> Whereas other manufacturers keep dedicated GPU framebuffers powered up even when using integrated graphics (because the display is connected to the GPU), Apple connects the display to a custom multiplexer so the dedicated GPU can be completely powered down. I'm pretty sure it's the other way around: the IGPU does the displaying and the DGPU just does 3D acceleration. Other manufacturers don't have a hardware mux because hardware muxes are expensive, and instead have driver support for handing over rendered frames from the DGPU to the IGPU for display. Indeed, NVIDIA has actually made GPUs with no display hardware on them at all, intended for exactly this application.

Get a T460. After extensive research I settled on this machine since the specs are very well balanced. You can get >15 hour battery life on this machine on both windows and linux and it is practically silent all the time.

I've got a T450s. The T460 is in many ways a downgrade from the T450s--no magnesium case, etc. It's also a major downgrade from the MBP. Dual-core rather than quad core, 14" rather than 15", no high-DPI display, SATA rather than NVMe. I think the touchpad and screen are similar to the T450s, and both those are very mediocre. The battery life is great, though, with the 6-cell.

Its the only T series laptop in the T46x generation that has a removable external battery.

a. Its built like a tank

b. It doesnt offer either a dgpu or a high resolution screen. For me this is a positive. On every recent laptop I have tried I have come to regret a high dpi screen or a discrete gpu since both those things compromise on battery and thermals extensively. Giving up on these two features means you win a lot back in terms of real world comfort. This includes my 2013 Mac Pro with the Nvidia card - the thermals / battery life on that are iffy. Apple does better than other vendors at extracting battery life out of a discrete GPU but that is not saying much.

c. I own some Intel 750 nvme drives on my desktop. For all the work I do I dont see a measurable improvement when I am using those over the sata drive that comes with the T460.

d. I do admit that over time I have begun to lean into the less is more philosophy when it comes to hardware.

e. Getting 15 hours of real world battery and then hot swapping the external to get 9 / 10 more really changes the way I use this thing.

This is only the second machine I have owned where I am tempted to order a second machine to stash away for future use.

> a. Its built like a tank

But less so than a T450s. Lenovo inexplicably limited the top-of-the-line magnesium shell to the slim-and-light 460s which has a non-replacable battery.

> high resolution screen.

That's a deal breaker for me. I'm not going back to reading text through a low-res screen. My 2013 rMBP 15" manages to get a solid 8-10 hours despite the retina display. PC manufacturers can't execute that because they're all jumping on the "4k" bandwagon, and there is no power-efficient 4k display on the market right now.

When I realised the cheapest 15' retina pro no longer included a dedicated GPU I was forced to look for alternatives.

I liked the idea of a touch screen and a believable stylus input - got a Surface Book with the dGPU - pretty happy.

But yeah it's 13'

All the new 15" MBPs have a dedicated GPU.

This is not true, as the GP said, the $2000 MBP 15 does not have a dGPU: http://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/macbook-pro/15-inch

(scroll down to see the $2000 model)

That's not a new MBP model, it's a 2015 model, hence the Thunderbolt 2 ports, not Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Well technically he said "cheapest" not "new". Bit of a moot point though.

@holografix: the cheapest 15' retina pro no longer included a dedicated GPU

@rayiner: All the new 15" MBPs have a dedicated GPU.

@lhl: This is not true,

Two different people. holografix never said cheapest, rayiner did.

But it's not "no longer." This machine (it's the 2015 rMBP) has not included a dGPU for as long as I can remember.

The author is missing two HUGE points in favor of MBPs: battery life and assistance.

Just today I went out at around 12 PM, worked non-stop in a nice cafe' until around 4:30 PM, went to buy some stuff, worked for 2 more hours, came back and realized I still had 30% left. That's insane (I'm using multiple VMs, IDEs, Chrome etc.). Especially considering that I feel the upgrade to Sierra has decreased battery life considerably.

Now, THAT's what you want from a laptop. Good performance, great materials and not having to panic if you forget the charger at home.

Apple's customer care and global warranty are universally known. They will even replace your battery for free (under warranty or Apple care) if its capacity goes below 80% (http://www.apple.com/batteries/service-and-recycling/).

(MBP early 2015 with 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD)

Note: I'm not an Apple fanboy (my phone is Android, never owned an iPhone) but when a product is great you just have to admit it.

Windows laptops' battery life have improved considerably as of late. I've been able to do cross-country (6-ish hours) flights with my Thinkpad and still come out with about 40-50% of my battery remaining. That's doing Python development with PyCharm and running HyperV VM instances. Neither of those things are especially known for positively impacting power usage.

This is no longer true with the 2016 MacBook Pro's. So far I love my new Mac, but the battery is absolute crap.

Reset your SMC - took me from 5 hours up to 9 1/2

Agreed. Battery life on my 2016 15" MBP is abysmal. I get maybe 4 hours of web browsing time. Open up an IDE and it drops to like 3 hours.

> Apple's customer care and global warranty are universally known.

My iPhone's lightning cable failed on my, and they needed SEVEN DAYS to check it before I could get a replacement.

I the meantime, I had no choice but to buy a second one to use during that week (I'm now stuck with two cables). If you consider how expensive they are (and I've no use for two!), it can't really get much worse than that.

I'm not sure what the deal was with Apple checking the cable. 7 days does sound out of line. Did you bring it into an Apple Store? Was shipping involved? Did they replace the cable or fix it?

Lightning to USB-[AC] 1 m for $19? Granted, it's $20. It can't really get much worse than that sounds like hyperbole though, if the phone was in your budget.

I took it to the only Apple Store around (where I had bought it) in person. They said upfront that checking it would take seven days.

They ended up giving me a new one after checking that it was, indeed, faulty.

> [...] if the phone was in your budget

The phone was in my budget. Extra cables were not. Why would you assume that because I can afford a smartphone, I just have money lying around?

Further, if cable #2 was purchased at an Apple Store, just return it 7 days later. You have a 14-day return window.

Damn, it's a shame I was unaware of this at the time.

> multiple VMs

I find as soon as VMs are involved the battery life is awful.

I also concluded Dell XPS 13 or Thinkpad Carbon, but never did a writeup. Still have not bought anything.

I want: 16GB, no touch bar, good keyboard, retina screen. I want a stripped down OS X, there are so many processes on El Capitain that just take up memory, distract me, and clutter my screen. I want zfs, not apfs.

I do not want to lose weekends trying to get the webcam or the fans working in Ubuntu. I'll miss homebrew if I use Ubuntu.

I feel like a person with no country. Somebody please pick up the torch that Apple dropped and make a laptop for developers.

> I'll miss homebrew if I use Ubuntu.

You'll prefer homebrew over aptitude...? I assumed the draw of Linux over OSX was proper package management.

Actually, there is http://linuxbrew.sh/, which is a fork of Homebrew, if one insists on using brew :) An advantage of brew over apt et al. I imagine would be simplicity, e.g. you don't need to add PPAs, import keys etc. Though I should add that in my limited experience with linuxbrew, I still had to deal with custom flags/builds/whatever in case of compatibility/version problems.

With the benefit that you don't have to use an additional module/command (brew cask) to get functionality like "install Google Chrome".

You should maybe learn a bit more about OSX and Ubuntu first.

Sierra is the latest OSX release (so not sure why you are talking about El Capitan). Apple deliberately broke up the OS into a lot of smaller processes to help with scheduling and isolation. It's a good thing. And given they are background daemons not sure how they would clutter your screen or distract you. As for ZFS you can use OpenZFS.

And Ubutnu has APT which is what Homebrew was based on so it should more than meet your needs. And as for drivers I've never heard of a situation where fans weren't working in Ubuntu.

As a former user of both Debian (waaaaay back in the day) and Ubuntu (back in the day), I can assure you homebrew is 1000x more pleasant to use than apt-get, dpkg, and the rest of that insanely baroque, non-ergonomic mess.

There was even an apt-get made for the Mac -- fink. Homebrew crushed it. And now there are projects brining homebrew back over to linux.

Also, a large part of what's great about the mac and homebrew is there's just one target -- it's, "oh shit, now we've all got to make our stuff work on Sierra". And there's a brief period of breakage, and then everything works.

On linux, there is no one fixed target, and the breakage is constant.

There is no way to install all updates to caskroom apps in homebrew. Apt with PPA just works.

You get stuff like not really being able to install qt4 and qt5 at the same time with Homebrew. Also the "just one target" thing is definitely the same with a Linux distro. Were you trying to install random .debs or something?

"16GB, no touch bar, good keyboard, retina screen."

Apple literally sells this configuration

They do, which is why, for my personal list, I have an addendum: "and a future for the model line." The non-touch-bar Macbook Pro has no future and after using the touch bar I really don't like it in a way I've never had an Apple product bite me. The reason this matters is that I'm at a good point in my professional life to switch away from Apple and to fully Linux for development and Windows for Adobe and other media tools--which is why I probably am going to.

>The non-touch-bar Macbook Pro has no future

First of all, that's a big assumption. Second of all, even if it is true, it doesn't matter for the machine that you buy right now. It seems that people are mostly outraged that a laptop without F keys exists at all. Because even within the Apple line, people are not forced to buy laptops without F keys.

It's not about the f keys. It's about the touch bar being gimmicky and a distraction when no out right annoying. I am typing on one right now. Even changing brightness or volume which should be better now, it's annoying because of UI lag. Get right of the F keys will have been better.

That's the first time that I've heard that perspective, everybody else I've heard complain has mentioned the lack of physical F keys.

UI-lag is annoying and inexcusable, very un-Apple like.

Plus: Not having one single de facto standard USB port, no more MagSafe, no more optical audio out, apparently poor battery life, and an insane price tag.

>"and a future for the model line."

Why? Why does a future device, one that hasn't been announced, released, or even built yet, one that will be at least a year away and won't actually obsolete anything you currently have, why would that have any impact on your purchase today?

It's not like Apple will stop supporting it when/if the line is discontinued, as long as you have Apple Care, you're covered. They just stopped manufacturing parts for the iPhone 4 recently. Why should the future of the model line matter to the current model?

You're just kicking the can down the road with respect to switching from a Mac to a Windows/Linux setup though. That's the the parent was saying. They are are a point where it could make sense to make the switch. Why buy a laptop that will just push this cost a few years down the road?

Exactly. This is a good time, in my personal and professional life, to move back to Linux/Windows (which was my primary mode of doing stuff before I started buying Macs in 2010). I'm growing more aggravated with OS X (sorry, macOS (how about make it better instead of just renaming things, Apple?)), I don't really like what they're doing to their hardware, and the new MBP is not a good value for the money. I can invest some money and time in switching now without interrupting or messing with important stuff.

Isn't everything just pushing costs further down the road? Eventually you'll have to get a new machine anyway. If the current one works for you, it's kind of crazy to reject it just because you'll have to buy something else in a few years.

I fully expect that some day Toyota will stop making my car. But I'm perfectly happy driving it anyway, because it's still being made today, and it was made when I bought it. Does that make sense? Because saying "The Corolla will stop being made some day in the future, so I'm going to buy a Camaro now" doesn't make any sense at all to me.

The choice isn't "this machine or that machine." It's "stay on the same platform or incur greater switching costs later." It is a question of ecosystems, and one only gets more enmeshed with more use. There's nothing crazy about deciding whether to rip off the band-aid now rather than create more of a sunk cost to deal with later.

I suspect that as early as the next version, they’ll add tactile feedback to the bar; they already know how to do it, they probably just made a judgment call to release on time. With that addition the bar would feel essentially like a keyboard and solve the biggest issues I think.

It's not tactile feedback, for me. It's that I can't touch-type on it because there are no keys. I really do want function keys, not widgets, for how I use a computer. I don't look down at the keyboard when I'm typing, I'm not going to want to do it to change brightness or volume or whatever, to say nothing of trying to send F-keys to parallels or whatever. And I also use vim. Blindly mashing at the top corner of my keyboard and having to wait until I can register "OK, I'm in command mode now" from the status bar was gross.

I think that the Touch Bar exists only and one-hundred-percent because Apple doesn't want to hurt the iPad. It doesn't even theoretically offer improvements over an on-screen toolbar with touch capability.

> I think that the Touch Bar exists only and one-hundred-percent because Apple doesn't want to hurt the iPad.

That would be a radical departure for Apple. They're always cannibalizing their own product lines.

Apple is very open about why they don't think a touch screen makes sense for Mac. They absolutely could change direction but as many others have pointed out, the PC form factor is slowly dying, so why would they?

Apple cannibalizes their product lines in favor of what they want to push, and it feels, given the steady disregard of the Mac over the last ~3 years, that they want to push iPads. A touchscreen doesn't make sense for a Mac because they make it not make sense for a Mac, yeah?

(I'm not even saying they should have one. I don't care either way. Just that the Touch Bar is not a good replacement.)

Touch screens can't (reasonably) be optically coated, because fingerprints on an optically coated screen get very obvious very quickly.

Personally, I'm upset enough that they no longer have a matte-screen option. To take away the optical coating so it could be a touch screen might be sufficient to drive me to another laptop. I hate glare, and the trackpad works fine for me; I have no interest in a touch screen.

I use vim on an older Macbook Pro. Even with a physical escape key, mapping caps lock to escape is a huge improvement. Now one of your most highly used keys is right on the home row instead of far off in the corner.

That is an option. It is one I don't want to deal with. Escape is escape on every machine, in every terminal. I prefer it to not suck.

try jj instead, i've been using it for years.

I think they made a weird decision here, not letting you hold fn the row of 1 through equals as fn keys. It's not too dodgy a solution, and I wish it was an option because I use both a Poker 3 and an ergodox with chording to do this and it feels entirely natural.

> And I also use vim.

As another vim user, it's probably better to get in the habit of using Ctrl-[ or Ctrl-C (though Ctrl-C has caveats in certain situations).

> I think that the Touch Bar exists only and one-hundred-percent because Apple doesn't want to hurt the iPad.

No because touchscreen makes zero sense for Apple.

OSX is simply unusable with a touchscreen. And we know this because you can remote desktop from an iPad and try it yourself. At some point when Apple has (a) built a unified iOS/OSX UIKit so developers are forced to auto scale their apps and (b) rewritten OSX to use it and (c) convinced enough developers to use it then it is a possibility. But that is years away.

I can very much see Apple bringing the iPad Pro's pencil to OSX however.

As I said in a side comment: OS X is unusable with a touchscreen because Apple makes it unusable with a touchscreen. That could change, if they wanted it to. They don't. And that's fine--I don't care either way, I'm touch-agnostic. I just think the Touch Bar is crap and that it exists because they don't want OS X to horn in on iOS.

The Pencil would be the only thing they could do to a standard, no-Touch-Bar-thank-you-very-much MBP that would make me stay with Apple, because I digitally draw and paint a lot. I currently have a DisplayLink-driven USB3 display tablet with a stylus for exactly that reason (and, as with everything else on an iPad, an iPad doesn't begin to replace it because it can't run Photoshop). I'd love it if they went that route. I doubt they will, though, because--well, I think they care about the iPad way more than they do about the Mac.

Yes, but they also said:

>I want a stripped down OS X, there are so many processes on El Capitain that just take up memory, distract me, and clutter my screen. I want zfs, not apfs.

I've lost so much time to wrangling with OS X to get it to behave the way I want, to get it to do things that would be trivial if I were running Linux. The two biggest reasons I've stuck with Apple are hardware build quality and the fact that Adobe CC is not available for Linux.

>Apple literally sells this configuration

The new macbook pro without touchbar is only available in 13 inches (which is the preferred form factor of many/most but still, it's a limitation), is only available with a slower cpu/gpu/memory (no really, even its i7 option is slower than the i7 option of the touch bar model--I have no idea why you can't just get it with the same internal hardware as the touchbar model), and only has two USB-C ports as opposed to four. For reasons I do not understand at all, it's very clearly a second-class product, which is a shame because if it could be upgraded to be otherwise identical to the touch bar model I would probably get one.

MacBooks are supposedly "overpriced", except he couldn't find any entirely comparable hardware--not even counting the value of having macOS. So in what sense are they overpriced?

It seems the other manufacturers care about this market niche even less than Apple does.

They're "overpriced" because you can buy more GHz, cores, GB ram, and GB storage for drastically less money.

What you can't find is screen resolution, quality of the keyboard, trackpad, and hinge, battery life, and general polish ("marketing") along with the other specs, while still costing less.

I agree, but I wouldn't characterize polish as "marketing". Polish includes design cohesion, build quality, choice of materials, a philosophy of engineering in service of the user experience (consider the comment elsewhere in this thread about how Apple has bespoke handling for Thunderbolt to allow it to power down at idle), and software/hardware integration. It's arguable that Apple has slipped in some of these areas, but none of them are "marketing", and all of them contribute to the sense of quality (and to cost).

I agree, but I think most critics of Apple would claim that only specs are real, and what we're talking about here is an illusion created by branding.

I think we're on the same page. Apple's relatively costly products will be seen as an especially bad value by those who do not see value in polish and attention to detail (or who believe polish and attention to detail -- particularly Apple's --- are a marketing illusion).

They're overpriced compared to what we had back in the day with the mb airs -- great performance and specs, sitting in the $1000-$1500 price slot, $2K pimped.

funny, when I go to the grocery store, their oranges are way more expensive than the apples I bought a decade ago.

MacBooks are generally fairly reasonably priced so long as you want the exact, precise hardware configuration they want, with no feature they don't offer or that are madatory but you don't need. Also, I'm pretty sure none of the MacBooks meet his "Linux compatible out the box" criteria either.

Eh, I use a Macbook Pro as my primary machine, and that's overselling it. Sure, the people who say "look at this $700 machine with the same specs as a Macbook Pro" are stupid, but there's a couple of comparable laptops.

Most notably, the Dell XPS 15 even puts the MBP to shame in some areas, and it basically runs linux out of the box despite what this article says. I'd get it if I wasn't happy with my current 15 inch rMBP.

I've given up on trying to find the perfect developer laptop and have instead gone for the desktop/chrome book combo.

I built a desktop with equivalent hardware specs to the MB Pro (2x8GB Ram, Intel i5-6600 3.30 GHZ, 750GB SSD, and a GeForce 1060 6G video card) for a little under a thousand dollars, and I dual booted it with Windows 10 and Fedora 25.

I set up Ubuntu 14 with Crouton on my Acer Chromebook 14. I basically have it in my bag all the time, and when I'm doing work on the go I'm in Ubuntu, and I'm in ChromeOS while in class/Internet surfing.

Essentially I do school work and hobby programming on my desktop, actual work on the computer in my workplace, and for everything between I have my chrome book. Between github and Dropbox (and my work's ssh server) I don't have problems syncing anything. Plus that's still cheaper than the bottom of line 13 inch MB Pro.

I wouldn't consider purchasing a laptop with a non "retina" screen in 2016.

Back a few years ago when I bought a 15' retina pro the leap in usability was tremendous. Other laptops' screens and displays looked terribly outdated in comparison.

Give me a slower processor, even a smaller hd - but I need the super-high-res screen.

Meh, that's just relative. My eyesight is poor enough for me to be unable to tell the difference. There's lot of us out there.

I, personally, have NO benefit in paying for such a high-res screen, because I literally cannot see the difference.

I presume you're farsighted?

Honestly, why? What's the difference? Are you a graphic designer?

ED: Note to joshkpeterson--you are apparently hellbanned.

There is actually one really useful factor, which is being able to view phone displays at 100% resolution without scrolling.

They look amazing. Everything else looks shabby when you switch.

Looks far nicer, and drastically less eye strain looking at text all day.

Text (and general glyph) rendering is way sharper. Causes less eyestrain.

"With every passing year, the latest and the greatest in software is becoming more CPU hungry and memory intensive. "

Maybe we shouldn't be calling it the latest and greatest? Maybe it's just the latest?

Not all uses of extra resources are bad. A “good” use of CPU or memory is any added safety such as guards against memory corruption, extra checks at run time, cryptography, etc. It may also be that in order to add sanity to web browsing, E-mail, etc. you must devote cycles to spam detection or removal of other unwanted content. Some of these things are only being done now because computers are finally good enough.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of wasteful examples too. One seems to be pure laziness. There are programs, I’m convinced, that have some kind of gigantic VM in them just to ease porting efforts; probably emulating half a damned operating system just to save somebody a few weeks of coding (heaven forbid they learn something new about each target OS instead of just trying to make a quick buck). It’s disgusting on the desktop but even worse on mobile where every short-cut by a developer literally cost users money in data, battery life, etc.

I got the latest gen Thinkpad X1 Carbon, and I couldn't be happier. The keyboard is fantastic, and it's powerful despite how feather light it is. I'm only disappointed by the tinny speakers.

I was recently in position to choose a new laptop, and in the end opted for T460s rather than X1 Carbon. It is essentially a slightly thicker and barely heavier sibling, with more memory (20GB), two batteries, and an Ethernet port.

This. Loved the Carbon, eventually traded it in for a mac, but only because I couldn't figure out why our unit tests didn't pass on any linux variant I tried. (Super weird).

This is always the proper way to fix a failing unit test.

After a full week, with everyone at my company offering suggestions no one could figure it out...we now have a semi-permanent todo: figure out why our unit tests don't work on linux.

File system case sensitivity?

Linux to Mac... Don't think so

Apple achieved the perfect personal computer back in 2013. OSX Lion running on the 13 or 15 inch retina was a killer product. Now they are regressing.

No worries. In two or three years we can collectively weep in reminiscence of Apple's glorious days, when they sold the first gen with the TouchBar and macOS Sierra. That was a great combo for professionals! 10h battery life! The ak47 keyboard! One plug to rule them all!

Now they're wasting their time with useless gimmicks like HoloSiri and I still can't get more than 128GB of RAM.

Actually if you look at the reviews for the 2013-2014 MacBook Pros, there unanimously near perfect or perfect on every major tech site. Its very hard to find actual criticism for those models from when they were released.

This doesn't hold true for the current gen, which outside of design choices, have legitimate hardware issues like poor battery life, inconsistent palm rejection on the mouse, and last gen processors.

Still a great laptop. Battery life is a bit down, but it's still good enough for day to day at home (can't use it for work. :/ ).

Weird. People were complaining about those models too.

And I honestly think Sierra is a great OS and improving with every point release. I am on the final beta for 10.12.2 and it's by far the best OS release I've used so far.

Am I the only one that has been just fine with 8GB RAM? I'm running glassfish, IntelliJ, and serving JS over gulp. I have multiple browsers open with lots of tabs. I also have several other applications running. I have yet to notice a problem with RAM.

Same here, I can't see how anyone could need 16gb for development, except maybe if video rendering is involved.

Multiple VMs cut into that.

Yeah, or doing builds in side a VM. Gets really slow if the linker / compiler starts swapping etc.

Does anyone use linux on a laptop and mind mentioning the battery life they get? I joke that I'm trapped by apple because it's the only way to get battery life and POSIX on the same machine.

I picked up an X250 last year w/ the extended 6-cell battery primarily for the better battery life.

With TLP setup, I'm able to get 8-10hrs of battery life w/o issues (I've gotten up to 13hrs if all I'm doing is editing text).

According to powertop, I can get power usage to go to over 18W on full load (100% CPU/DRAM, 100% display backlight), but under my normal setup (wifi, 30% display backlight) idle power consumption is about 4.8W - my idle states never goes below C6/pc6 even running the latest 4.8 kernels. (Did the SATA power state stuff ever get fixed?)

I use Ubuntu on a tricked out yoga 900 and I plug it in about once every two days or so when I'm using it somewhat actively. At full charge it reports having 9-11h of charge, but I've never verified that that's accurate. I haven't really felt much need to because that's pretty much a "don't worry about it" amount of time between charges for me.

Mind you it doesn't have a dedicated GPU, but I would avoid that like a plague on a laptop running Linux for various reasons. Intel graphics tend to just work.

I use Ubuntu 16.04 on an X1 carbon 4th gen and the battery life is fine, I haven't had to worry about it. Probably 7-8 hours of normal coding, browsing etc?

Thinkpad x220 running TLP with extended battery covers all day (sometimes 7AM to 9PM) of browsing and CLion & PyCharm. I'm a student so the only time it's not being used heavily is when I'm walking from class to class.

As the other comment said I get about 5W draw in powertop. All I've done is install TLP as the other comment says.

Something else you can do if you'd like to get a huge boon for battery life is get a slice battery [0]. Get both the extended and slice and you'll be able to probably go 20hr.

[0] - http://blog.lenovo.com/en/blog/all-day-long-all-day-strong-o...

Using Ubuntu 14.04LTS for one year on a T450s (20GB, 1GB SSD) - it has two batteries and you can switch one of them while running the system on the built-in battery. With the big battery I can work the whole day without having to charge, something like 10 hours are possible for coding and working on documents and running some VMs.

I consider it the best laptop I ever had.

I ran lubuntu full time from 2012-2015 on my main laptop (also had a windows.tablet for onenote), and the battery life was better than the original installed os. I'm not sure about full Ubuntu..

I installed Ubuntu MacBook Pro 2015, without any modification they get like 1-2 hours battery life, with powertop/TLP installed it can last for 4-5 hours. Stock macOS lasts 9-10 hours for me.

My 2013 MBA says ~10hs when idle. In reality, I tend to get around 7hs of actual usage.

One thing that this and many other analyses seem to fail to distinguish when comparing MBPs is that the 13" and 15" models are two very distinct lines.

The 13" are basically an ultraportable, with 15W "U" processors and the 15" are thin and light workstation class machines - they have Intel's beefiest 45W "HQ" processors (and the option of an overpriced mid-tier mobile GPU).

Almost all of this article's recommendations are for a MBP 13 replacement, which IMO is less compelling - you can get some things that are cheaper (and w/o a soldered in SSD), but nothing that's outright better, especially when things like fit and finish and battery life are taken into account. I think the best alternative now is the new HP Spectre x360 - it has a FHD screen with comparable color gamut, comparable battery life, and you can get twice the RAM/storage as the MBP 13 while still paying 1/3 less.

If battery life (and a high-end CPU) is important to you, then your best option for a 2016 MBP 15 alternative... is probably the 2015 MBP 15. Battery life is the real razor here. The 2016 MBP 15 does 10h on wifi, 8.6h w/ h.264 playback, but a measly 0.9h under full load. The 2015 MBP 15 will get you 7.5h on wifi, 6.8h w/ h.264, but 1.75h under full load. The i7-4770HQ/i7-4870HQ/i7-4980HQs, while older, actually performs about the same/better to the new Skylake processors. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Of all the PCs out there, I'd say the XPS 15 9550 might be the closest competition - it has a great 100% sRGB / 89% Adobe RGB UHD screen option and is half the price of a similarly speced 2016 MBP 15 (although you'd probably be able to find a 2015 for around the same price) but half the battery life (just over 5 hours) when on wifi, and even close to a year in, still has some buggy firmware (screen flicker at lower levels, waking up from sleep under vibration) that sadly seems typical for PC vendors. [1]

IMO, the most compelling reason to get a PC laptop is if you need a beefier GPU, but you'll need to be aware that you'll be making some trade-offs (and making a time investment for swapping OS's).

(Screen gamut and battery numbers are all from Notebookcheck, who seem to do the best laptop reviews around.)

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/Dell/comments/5g0lh7/new_bios_1216_...

I've used an MBP for the last two years (15" model) and had to replace it as it got damaged. The biggest issue I had with it was the keyboard. I didn't like it. I come from a 327X keyboard tradition :) I found the build quality, the weight, the display, the battery life to be quite awesome. It was also pretty quiet.

I looked at the new MBP and didn't like the price (even though the company pays) and didn't like the new touch bar, I use the function keys. I also didn't like the changes to the ports.

I'm typing this from my new Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga. So far I like it. It does have a cheaper feel but I find I type faster on this keyboard (though they seem to have copied some of Apples' bad design, IBM ThinkPads used to have nicer keyboards). The display is good. There's a built-in digitizer and stylus (which I haven't tried yet). Being able to flip the display around and stand it upside down is a big space saver where it comes to using external keyboards (which I'll probably do most of the time). It's lighter than the MBP (14" vs. 15" though). Being able to flip the display around to make a thick tablet seems like a nice feature, we'll see how much I end using it. It's a little noisier than the MBP. Battery life seems good so far. I have my HDMI port, DisplayPort, and 3 USB ports.

If the MBP was slightly cheaper, lost the touchbar, kept the HDMI port I'd probably go for it. If it could do this Yoga flip/stand that'd be a nice bonus. Page-up/down would be nice too ;)

AHHH You missed the best machine thats under the radar.

SAMSUNG series 9. runs linux like none other and is a fantastic machine in 15 inch lighter than all the competitors.

One of the things that's been infuriating me about the Macbook line is Apple's refusal to go above 16GB. I'm constantly hitting that limit with my VM heavy workload and bloated tools. In my search I keep coming back to the Thinkpad T460p wondering if the bulky plastic case is worth the tradeoff for the raw power. It's maddening I can't have both.

To be fair, this seems to be a limitation from Intel (not supporting over 16 gigs of LPDDR4 RAM), not Apple.

> not supporting over 16 gigs of LPDDR4 RAM

The limitation is actually 16GB of of LPDDR3.

Intel Skylake CPUs support up to 128GB of unbuffered DDR4, depending upon chipset, and don't support LPDDR4 at all at present.

Apple chose to use the older, lower-power RAM specification and thus adopted the limitation. If they'd left the battery capacity unchanged then perhaps they could have used DDR4 but apparently their priority was reduced overall volume.

If the T460p can do it Apple could too.

You said earlier:

"In my search I keep coming back to the Thinkpad T460p wondering if the bulky plastic case is worth the tradeoff for the raw power. It's maddening I can't have both."

That's the thing. It's a trade off. If Apple could make a laptop with >16GB RAM AND a sleek design AND good battery life, they would do that. But they can't.

You could just have a desktop with vastly better specs. My 4 year old full tower still has better specs in almost every way than top end laptops do.

I don't understand the obsession with laptops. They have shit keyboards, small screens, are far more fragile, have less room to work (don't like having to clown-car my arms to type/use a touchpad), are generally under powered yet still exceedingly expensive. Yea, I have one at home and 2 at work - but I also have an illicit desktop at work (actually not allowed... for no reason).

The laptop's ONLY advantage is in portability, imo. But then I've never sat in a noisy coffee shop or whatever on one. I don't see the appeal in that either - I make my own coffee (roast/grind/boiled filtered water/french press) which is better quality for less money. To each their own I guess.

I wish it was just a hardware search, but I always find the other OS alternatives have a gotcha or two for my needs.

Off topic, I have the new mac book pro 15" model (coming from 13" macbook), and I have started to have severe wrist pain. I am not sure if it is because of the new gigantic trackpad or keyboard. I am trying everything short of returning it for now.

Any one else having this issue?

Do you by any chance rest your forearms / wrists differently than on your 13"? One reviewer mentioned he got annoyed by the less than perfect palm rejection in the new touchpad. When he rested his palms, it occasionally led to clicks or right-clicks. To counter unwanted clicks, he changed how he positioned his wrists, and he raised his wrists whenever he clicked to avoid right-clicks. It strained his wrists and he wasn’t happy about it.

This is not intended in any way to be critical of Apple for not offering a touch screen model. But if someone is already inclined to look for a non-Apple notebook, a touch screen system might be worth trying.

I have a problem with all trackpads, possibly just due to poor hand to eye coordination. I'm a double bassist, so maybe I'm just ham fisted. But I find that a touch screen system is so much more comfortable, that I put up with the OS and with fingerprints.

Is it carpal tunnel syndrome? Try to avoid resting your wrist on a surface while typing. Also consider a better keyboard layout like dvorak or colemak.

Thanks for advice. I have had what I imagine is carpal tunnel syndrome 5-7 years ago but it had went away when I stopped using a mouse and just used trackpad. This feels just like that again.

To avoid resting wrists, do you generally use a pad that supports your forearms then or just hold arms/wrists up? My pain has always been just my right wrist which I use on trackpad.

FWIW, if possible and if you haven't already, I'd suggest trying an external trackball mouse.

Particularly the Microsoft ergonomic ones, or the equivalent Logitech ones.

Microsoft discontinued the one I use now (coming up to about 10 years and still going strong) but this mouse from Logitech seems similar:

Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball:


It made a big difference in how (less) stiff my right hand wrist (trackpad / x230) felt in just a few days of use.

Definitely better than the trackpad or a regular mouse, IMO

I get pain in my wrists from touch pads so I always have a mouse with me. I stopped believing in ergonomics when I worked for 3 months at a kitchen table without any issues. As someone who had huge issues in the past. I guess you gotta find something that works.

When I get pain in my right hand/wrist after extensive trackpad use, I just switch hands. I'm a little slower with my left, but overall it's a good solution for me.

So the result is... three notebooks with the same processor and SSD capacity as the MBP, two of which also max out at 16GB?

I mean – the "reasoning" at the start is:

    With every passing year, the latest and the greatest in
    software is becoming more CPU hungry and memory intensive. 
   Therefore, it is important to have at least 16 GB memory 
   and the latest processors in my machine.
But it appears the real differences are simply price[0] and his preference for cheap plastic housings?


    Lenovo has a long tradition of making laptops that last
    for many years. Their ThinkPad flagship line of laptops
    is targeted at developers and business users and has a 
    cult following among this user base.
No. IBM had a long history. Lenovo has a long history of preinstalling crapware, and making enough money off it to buy the Thinkpad line.

    Made for professionals on the go...
Oh! This is a Lenovo PR effort. Sorry for disturbing, please move on.

[0]: Possibly. Considering the whole article boils down to nothing but price, it's surprisingly laking any information about the prices

You're spot on here.

I've been critical and bitchy about Apple of late, but they make the best laptops in the world, period. Just the touchpad alone tells the story.

People claim that they need to do all sorts of things to justify 32GB laptops or running a dozen VMs. I don't see any evidence that these people really exist in significant numbers.

> People claim that they need to do all sorts of things to justify 32GB laptops or running a dozen VMs. I don't see any evidence that these people really exist in significant numbers.

I agree. Especially for programmers, I understand needing beefy specs if you have super heavy compiler workloads and/or do heavy GPU work, but how many people is that really? And wouldn't most such people prefer a desktop anyway?

I am a software engineer and my personal machine is the supposedly ultra-wimpy 12" Macbook, and I love it. It legitimately handles every workload I throw at it (including running multiple VMs) and it's so tiny and portable that it's basically a zero-cost proposition to take it everywhere I go, which is amazing. To me, sacrificing convenience for spec-sheet wankery is just silly, but I've met a lot of people who I think would probably disagree with that, like it's some badge of nerd honor to be walking around with a 5 lb brick of RAM that's rarely if ever going to be more than 1/4 utilized.

I am not super stoked about the touch bar business, though. It seems like a solution in search of a problem; the main draw of Apple laptops for me has been their refined execution and lack of gimmickry. I am glad that my machine dodged that bullet.

And wouldn't most such people prefer a desktop anyway?

Well yes in terms of specs and performance, but you can't take that with you. If you do GPU work you'll really want a discrete GPU with a complete featureset. Some people were complaining about the new MacBooks having AMD cards, I presume because most DL frameworks perform best with (or in some sad cases only support) CUDA libraries.

Especially since memory paging is no longer an issue. The solid-state drives in these laptops are fast enough to read and write several gigabytes of memory per second.

I tend to agree with you, until you start using Scala and IntelliJ. That will use every ounce of processor and memory it can put its grubby mits on. For normal web development (favorite editor + running some framework) even a MacBook will do.

You're making the mistake of trying to translate individual people's unmet needs with some kind of marketing scoreboard. If you need those things, it doesn't really matter to you if there's one of you or a million, it's still a problem.

Not at all. Hell I work with some poor souls toiling with some Oracle monstrosity that need 64GB of RAM to work. I get it. My employer is massive, these guys literally are 7/200000 people with that need. Even GIS people don't really have it -- most of them are using circa 2012 MacBook pros with windows virtualization.

The teeth-gnashing and stream of navel gazing blog posts that you see on many tech forums on the topic is 98% nonsense.

If you are in fact the mythical creature who needs a 32/64GB workstation on your laptop, you have a problem unless you make some very significant sacrifices. You need a "mobile workstation" from Dell/Lenovo/HP, and you're essentially giving up major aspects of portability to do so.

Would you have said the same about 8GB three years ago?

Because that's how long these machines have to last, realistically. And I'll bet that 16GB in three years will feel pretty cramped for a lot of higher end users.

"his preference for cheap plastic housings?"

Well, speaking at least for the Dell XPS I'm typing this on, it's not a cheap plastic housing. I'm sure there are people who would outright prefer the XPS to a Mac, if you prefer the carbon fiber over aluminum.

Like me... A dell xps 13 with ubuntu 16.04... The xps is gorgeous and no cheap plastic at all...

XPS user here, I really love this laptop (L502x) but I will "never" buy Dell laptops again.

Because, this laptop is 4 or 5 years old (work like charm) but the problem with all Dell laptop models are, their adapter has worst quality ever. Simply, Dell adapters are not built to last long.

When Dell adapter is broken (a.k.a the chip inside doesn't send signal that it's genuine one) Dell laptop stops charging the battery, shows annoying adapter not recognized message.

And most annoyingly it drops CPU speed, I have Sandybridge 2630QM cpu i7 with 2.5 Ghz but failing adapter makes it speed 900 Mhz and it doesn't get any faster. IF you plug out the adapter then it turns back to normal but putting back on "not recognized" adapter causes the same issue.

So simply, Dell kills your laptop completely if the adapter is broken. So now I either have to buy a new laptop or find a used adapter to replace my current 4 year one.

The XPS 13 with USB-C (current and previous generations) at least can charge via USB-C, so you can ignore the Dell adapter if you wanted.

This is inaccurate. Lenovo is shit for their $500 level consumer level laptops, but their professional Thinkpads are still top tier and were never affected by the crapware incidents.

The current T4x0, X2x0 and Px0 series Thinkpads are still top of the line machines for anyone from corporate businesspeople to kernel hackers who run BSD on their primary machine.

You might prefer the X220 or T420 which are the last models before they messed up the keyboard and touchpad starting with the 30's. I'm very happy with the *20's, is there any reason to go for newer ones?

The T450s and the T460 seem to have decent keyboards once again. At least, all they keys are there, and they don't have the weird layout of the 2nd generation X1 Carbon. Also, they've brought back separate physical buttons for the TrackPoint, which is nice, since the pseudo-buttons they had on the touchpad wouldn't recognize right-clicks about 10% of the time.

Thinkpad X1 is a great machine, have you used one?

One word. Samsung Series 9

its hard to find under the radar but its amazing.

light as a feather, 15 inch and can run linux well and overall a fantastic machine.

Doesn't the XPS 13 come with Kaby Lake? My understanding is that the new MBP does come with the previous generation.

Yes, but the CPU and GPU performance of those are worse than the Skylake chips in the touchbar MBPs.

Yea, altough I'm not sure that is going to make much different in a practical sense.

> cheap plastic housings

The X1 is made of magnesium and carbon fiber, definitely not a cheap feeling housing.

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